APPLYING OTTOMAN RULE IN THE BALKANS ARCHITECTURE, WAQF
AND EARLY OTTOMAN CITY FORMATION UNDER THE EVRENOS FAMILY
Turkish Cultural Foundation Fellow (2010-2011)
Ph.D. Candidate, Ottoman History, Center for Middle Eastern Studies & Department of History, Harvard University, USA
While the exact date of birth of Evrenos Beg is not known, the date of his death is provided in his burial inscription, which states it as Wednesday 7 Şevval 820 / 17 November 1417. Ottoman chronicles, the vast majority of which stem from 1480s onwards, mention that he died at a notably old age. When the Ottomans incorporated the adjacent beylik of Karası to their dominions after 735 / 1334-1335, Süleyman Paşa, the eldest son of Orhan, received the region of Karası as a timar and local notables, formerly under the orders of the Karası dynasty, such as Hacı Il-Begi, Ece Beg, Gazi Fazil and Evrenos, came into his service.
Although Evrenos took part in the army sent by Orhan to support Kantakouzinos in his struggle against John V Palaeologus, Evrenos’s activities can be better traced, though, since the Ottomans crossed the Dardanelles firstly with the capture of Tzympe castle in 1352 and then with the occupation of the Kallipolis stronghold in 1354. Installed firstly at the fortress of Konur Hisarı near Kallipolis, he started taking active part in raids and captures of towns, cities and castles in the region of Eastern Thrace, then Western Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, the Peloponnese, Albania, Serbia, Hungary and Wallachia. He became successfully acquainted with the geography of the Balkan Peninsula through battles, raids and conquests in the area of Didhymoteikhon/Dimetoka, Keşan, Kypsela/İpsala, Adrianoupolis/Edirne, Ferrai/Ferecik, Komoutzina/Gümülcine, Maroneia, Sırp Sındığı, Tchernomen/Çirmen, Peritheoreion/Boru, Xantheia/İskeçe, Kavala, Drama, Serrai/Serez, Yenice-i Vardar, Monastirion/Manastır, Skopje/Üsküb, Kossovo, Doirani/Doyran, Vodena, Kitros, Nicopolis/Niğbolu, Corinth, Argos, and finally Akşehir in Süleyman Çelebi’s campaign against the Karamanids. During the Interregnum he supported first Süleyman Çelebi and then Mehmed, while he retired in Yenice-i Vardar, guiding his sons and grandsons until his death in 1417.
The expansion of the Ottomans from a principality to a regional power in Anatolia and the Balkans, and thus the gradual building of an empire state, was based on the activities of the akıncıs, the war lords, who were active in the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula. Evrenos Beg, who belonged to the families of the warrior nobility of the early Ottoman era, together with other local lords, originating from a disintegrating Byzantine milieu or nascent Turcoman nobility from North-Western Anatolia, took active part in campaigns in Western Anatolia, Thrace, Macedonia, Southern Greece, and the Central Balkans. After the conquest of each castle or city (i.e. İpsala, Edirne, Didhymoteichon/Dimetoka, Ferai/Ferez, Komotini/Gümülcine, Seres/Siroz, Giannitsa/Yenice-i Vardar) and its surrounding territory, Evrenos, became the local governor and took efforts in incorporating it into the Ottoman realm by establishing Islamic-Ottoman urban nucleuses through the foundation of public buildings like the T-type multifunctional structures, soup kitchens, mosques, medreses, public baths, bridges, and fountains. Ottoman methods of conquest, Ottomanization of newly conquered territories in the Balkans, establishment of Muslim urban nucleuses, settlement patterns, patronage and building activities, setting up of religious foundations, Turcoman population movements, social and religious developments in mutli-ethnic and multi-religious societies, continuity and change in the social environment, reaction to the Ottoman expansion in the region by minor powers in the Balkans and major powers in the Mediterranean, Central Europe, and the Middle East, formation of Ottoman institutions, creation of peripheral power, application of Pax Ottomanica to regions devastated by activities such as military campaigns, crusades, civil wars, local fights, discontinuity of agricultural activities and depopulation for centuries are the dimensions of the historical developments connected to Evrenos Beg and his family establishment.
The late 14th and early 15th centuries was a period, when Medieval Balkan societies and states faced a significant change in the social, political and religious structure active for centuries in the region after the conquest of the Muslim Ottomans, who introduced and applied Middle Eastern Islamic and Central Asiatic principles and forms upon a Roman background to result into a synthesis with its advantages and pitfalls interwoven with continuation and change in the social, political and religious levels.
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):